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Nelson Tunnel site added to EPA Superfund priorities list

Release Date: 09/03/2008
Contact Information: Peggy Linn, 303-312-6622,

Cleanup to improve water quality in Willow Creek

(Denver, Colo. - September 3, 2008) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today added the Nelson Tunnel/Commodore Waste Rock pile near Creede, Colo., to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites. The draining mine adit and waste rock pile are located about 1 mile north of Creede in Mineral County, Colo.

The Nelson Tunnel/Commodore Waste Rock pile is part of the Creede Mining District, one of Colorado's largest historic silver mining districts. The area is located along West Willow Creek, which flows into Willow Creek, a tributary of the Rio Grande River.

The Nelson Tunnel and Commodore Waste Rock pile are the two largest contributors of toxic heavy metals in the Willow Creek drainage. The tunnel adit directly discharges contaminated water from old mine workings into West Willow Creek. The waste rock pile, located adjacent to the adit, consists of mineralized rock discarded during excavation of the adit. Periodic runoff from this exposed pile is a significant source of heavy metals to the Creek. In 2005, a drainage channel at the base of the pile --designed to prevent runoff from washing heavy metals downstream -- failed during a flood.

The Superfund listing allows EPA to address technically complex and potentially costly problems before more contaminants are washed downstream. The listing also provides for long-term monitoring and maintenance of work completed.

The NPL is a published list of sites that are contaminated by hazardous substances and eligible for extensive, long-term cleanup under the Superfund program. Listing on the NPL makes the Nelson Tunnel/Commodore Waste Rock Site eligible to receive federal funds for cleanup while EPA seeks to recover costs from identified responsible parties.

The Superfund listing also provides the public an opportunity to participate in cleanup decisions. Affected communities are also eligible for EPA technical assistance grants to help with the interpretation of site and cleanup information and to facilitate community involvement. In addition, the National Historic and Preservation Act requires federal agencies to consider the effects of their activities on historic properties on and around the site.

This announcement is being published in the Federal Register. To view the Federal Register notice enter the following URL into an internet search engine, and begin a search for docket number EPA-HQ-SFUND-2008-0085.

Information that EPA used to document the proposed listing of this site is available at or the following locations:


Superfund Records Center

1595 Wynkoop Street

Denver, CO 80202-1129


Creede Town Hall

Meeting Room

2223 N. Main Street

Creede, CO 81130